Drew Thurman (10:09 am)
The Buckeye offense finally looked like an offense again on Saturday against Minnesota. The Buckeyes accumulated 414 yards, and probably could have had over 500 had they not taken the foot of the gas in the fourth quarter. Still though, the most impressive statistic of the day had to be the 7.5 yards the Buckeyes averaged as a team on the ground. A lot of this can be credited to Beanie Wells being back in the lineup. This truely was Beanie's day, and his returned sparked a lot of energy throughout the offense. His 106 yards looked very impressive, and Minnesota truely had no answer for his power and speed.
After Beanie, this was also another big day for Terrelle Pryor. Pryor rushed for 97 yards in the game, and had two huge touchdowns. The first one of 33 yards got the offense going for the rest of the game. He only had 70 yards and one touchdown in the air, but was 8 of 13 and had no interceptions.
The third man that stepped up in this game was Brian Robiskie. Many complained about Robiskie's performance early this season, but he looked to finally be back in sync with 90 yards and 2 touchdowns. I credited this to the emergence of Terrelle Pryor and Robiskie's health finally improving.
Outside of these three gentlemen, they only thing I was really impressed in was the offensive line. It's sad that I am impressed when the offensive line actually does its job, but I was. Many of the offensive linemen made it clear that Tressel had fired them up this week, and they played like it (Thank you Jim Bollman). They opened holes all day against the Golden Gophers, and helped the team rush for 279 yards. Let's hope they keep this attitude up!
The defense looked really good in this game. Sure they gave up 15 points in the fourth quarter, but that was with subs in the game and a less aggressive approach with the game in hand. So, I grade the defensive unit based on the first three quarters. In those quarters the defense gave up just 6 points. On top of that, Minnesota accumulated 149 of it's abysmal 268 total yards on late drives in the fourth quarter.
The Buckeyes defense also forced three big turnovers in the game. Donald Washington had an interception, finally putting his name back on the map for fans. He still did not have a single tackle in the game, but it is nice to see him out there again. The Buckeyes also forced two fumbles in the game. The one that was most confusing had to be the one Anderson Russell came up with. There is no way this should have been a fumble if the referees would have whistled the play dead, but I was sure glad for the luck. We are starting to see this late whistle trend from referees on plays like that, and I just don't understand what is going on!
There were a few individuals who had good games against Minnesota. Obviously Laurinaitis had a huge game with 12 total tackles in the game, but he was not the only linebacker who had a big day. Ross Homan had 10 total tackles in the game, one of which was a tackle for loss. The Buckeyes need Homan to step up, and this was a good sign. I am a little worried about him when we play teams that have better tight end weapons, but this was a solid game for Homan. Lastly, this was a good game for Anderson Russell who had 7 total tackles and two forced fumbles.
The special teams once again was not too flashy, but they did do their job. Ryan Pretorius was 2/3 in the field goal department, and his long was 44 yards. Aaron Pettrey had seven kickoffs, and 3 were touchbacks. So the kicking game was not bad at all. AJ Trappaso averaged 54.5 yards on 2 punts, showing us once again that he can boot the ball. I am not sure I like him in short punt situations, but he can punt it a mile.
There really is not much to say about the return game against Minnesota. Ray Small did not return any punts in the game, but it was nice to finally see him fair catch the ball. Brandon Saine returned three kickoffs in the game, and really didn't impress me that much. He did boulder a few Gophers over on each return, but he looked a step slow. I really hope that Saine can finally get himself 100 percent healthy because he is a major weapon.
This was a game both the players and fans needed. There was excitement in the air, and the Buckeyes did a lot of good things in the game. This team has some big tests upcoming, and this game surely had to help with their confidence.
The Buckeyes are going to have to get better at the little things if they plan on winning the Big Ten though. Once again the team was plagued with 10 penalties for 90 yards. Two of these were terrible calls (facemask, and pass interference on Jenkins) that set up a field goal for the Gophers. With that said though, the Buckeyes are shooting themselves in the foot a lot, and this has to improve.
Overall though, I was very excited with what I saw on Saturday. This next week is going to be very difficult for this team, and getting guys like Wells and Robiskie back in sync was huge. If this team gives the effort they did against Minnesota every week, they have some great things ahead!